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BU’s MFA Exhibitions Now on Display

The best in painting, graphic design featured in three shows

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Boston University BU, College of Fine Arts CFA, graphic design, painting, sculpture, masters in fine arts exhibition

Erin Wilkey (CFA’13), The Dark Crystal, Movie Poster, Composite microscopic photographs, 2013.

It’s impossible to walk past the 808 Gallery on Comm Ave and not notice Kathleen Kennedy’s massive oil painting The Three Graces. The work depicts three strips of bacon floating in a sea of aqua blue. The lifelike painting is guaranteed to invoke hunger pains in many visitors. Kennedy (CFA’13) is one of 25 College of Fine Arts School of Visual Arts graduate students whose work is currently on view at three galleries across campus in the annual MFA Thesis Exhibitions. The three separate exhibitions consist of work by painting, graphic design, and art education students; the first two are up through Sunday, April 28, the third through Friday, April 26.

Just as arresting in the MFA Painting Exhibition are Adrienne Stein’s paintings. Stein (CFA’13) uses all kinds of material to give her work a multidimensional quality. In Eve of St. John, an ethereal painting of several women dancing around a fire, actual lace gives the women’s dresses a layered texture. Similarly, in Sentinel, Stein uses real feathers to enhance her portrait of an owl.

Visitors will likely be spellbound by the haunting Embryo Dreams, by Luca de Gaetano (CFA’13), with its various human and animal forms. This is a painting that demands long and careful examination.

Boston University BU, College of Fine Arts CFA, graphic design, painting, sculpture, masters in fine arts exhibition

Meghan Gaul (CFA’13), Untitled 3, 16x24, digital print, 2013.

Anna Valdez (CFA’13) spent last summer at home in northern California, filling sketchbooks with images she describes as evoking “a longing for the idea of home.”

Valdez drew on her memories of her grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, as a muse for her “masked portraits” series, which comprises much of her thesis project.

“How I represent the figures in my work relates to how I imagine it must feel to not recognize a loved one or one’s self,” Valdez says. In Lucy, an oil on panel, she depicts a woman with a heavily bandaged face, and internal organs spilling out of the bandages. What could have been a gruesome image is softened by Valdez’s palette of pale colors, leaving the viewer with a strong sense of the subject’s inner vulnerability.

“I use pink as a character,” she says of the painting’s predominant color. “I feel the color has social references and associations that are part of our visual language. To me it references the intimate, sweetness, and the flesh.”

The exhibition is the culmination of two years of intensive painting for students, and for many, there is a palpable sense of relief in having completed their thesis project.

“It has taken me a long time to hone in on more specific conceptual themes and develop a formal language and a personal set of symbols and technical skills as a painter,” says Giorddanne Salley (CFA’13). “The works that are included in this exhibition were all created within the last six months, some as recent as last week. But I see them as being the result of several years of research and practice.”

Boston University BU, College of Fine Arts CFA, graphic design, painting, sculpture, masters in fine arts exhibition

Chi Tran (CFA’13), Beautifully Painful, 11x17 poster, 2013.

“The MFA candidates work 24/7 for two years. They eat, live, and breathe their work, sequestered in their studios, and this final exhibition is the culmination of all their hard work,” says Lynne Allen, director of the School of Visual Arts and a CFA professor of art. “Now that the work is complete, they will enjoy seeing the fruits of their labor.”

The Boston University Art Gallery at the Stone Gallery is hosting this year’s MFA Graphic Design Exhibition, titled What’s Next. The 12 participating artists say the title grew out of a question that kept surfacing as they explored their theses. “What’s the next step in our thesis? How does this influence our work? What’s next in life?…We wanted to flip the question into a statement. We are what’s next,” says Meghan Gaul (CFA’13).

Among the works are Gaul’s vibrant pop-up-style images of familiar city landmarks, juxtaposed in such a way that the viewer is forced to examine them in a different light. In digital print Untitled 3, she overlays images of the Boston Financial District’s skyline, a graffitied T platform, and a sign for an opera house, all set against a deep red sky. The familiar becomes startlingly new in her work as she forges new relationships between everyday cultural symbols.

“We perceive and interpret culture based on previous experiences,” Gaul says. “I believe that by taking cultural objects out of context and reassembling them to form unexpected relationships, I can strengthen their individual significance and develop new meaning.”

Keith Kitz (CFA’13) returned to school after 16 years working in graphic design so he could hone his artistic vision. Kitz’s work, which includes nude self-portraits, is based, he says, “on the principle of questioning—that is, examining political, social, and religious constructs and generating editorial responses.” He says his intent is to explore ways he can “amplify my voice as a designer…and to create pieces that are not only layered with personal content, but that are also compelling and speak to viewers.”

“This program isn’t designed so that they walk out of here with the slickest portfolio in the world,” notes Alston Purvis, a CFA professor of art. “We try to have it so that when they go out there and they’re confronted with a problem in design that they’ve never seen before, even heard of before, then they can tackle it.”

Boston University BU, College of Fine Arts CFA, graphic design, painting, sculpture, masters in fine arts exhibition

Luca de Gaetano (CFA’13), Embryo Dreams, 96x96, oil on canvas, 2013.

The third show, the MA and BFA Art Education Exhibition, is on view at Gallery 5, on the fifth floor of CFA. It features work by students completing degrees in studio education. Their work is shown alongside work done by their school pupils.

The MFA Painting Exhibition is at the 808 Gallery, 808 Commonwealth Ave., until Sunday, April 28. The gallery is open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m., closed Monday. The MFA Graphic Design Exhibition is at the Boston University Art Gallery at the Stone Gallery, 855 Commonwealth Ave., until Sunday, April 28. The gallery is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m., closed Monday. The MA and BFA Art Education Exhibition is at Gallery 5, 855 Commonwealth Ave., fifth floor, until Friday, April 26. The gallery is open during CFA’s regular building hours.

Ashleigh Fryer can be reached at afryer@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @ashleigh_fryer.

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